Morrisville, PA asked in Animal / Dog Law and Landlord - Tenant for Pennsylvania

Q: Can I lose my dog privileges at my aprt for walking my neighbors naughty dog that has a bite history? If he bites again?

I have two esa (dogs) at my aprt complex. I’ve never had a problem with them. I also walk my neighbors dog, I’ll call him “Wally”. Wally is legally on her lease. The problem is, Wally has nipped at an apartment employee before, with a different walker. The incident was reported and is now on file. The lady in the office told me that I can lose my dog privileges if I’m walking the neighbors dog and he nips someone again. Considering he’s not my dog, I’m only the walker, how is this possible? Wouldn't Wally’s owner be the only one responsible? Shouldn’t only her dog privileges be at risk? How can my dogs be held accountable for her dogs behavior? My dogs do not bite. I keep her dog far away from people but sometimes people walk up on him quickly and he reacts. God forbid I don’t see someone run you to us or he slips out of his collar or pulls the leash out of my hand. Worse case but accidents do happen. Why would I be held accountable as Wally’s dog walker? Wouldn’t it be his owners?

2 Lawyer Answers
Nellie T Schulz
Nellie T Schulz
Answered
  • Philadlephia, PA
  • Licensed in Pennsylvania

A: It’s not possible to answer your question definitively without knowing what the pet provisions say in your lease. I suppose it’s possible that it could provide that a tenant who acts negligently when walkia dog” could be bYour arguments are logical and sound, but that doesn’t mean your lease is as well.

Nellie T Schulz
Nellie T Schulz
Answered
  • Philadlephia, PA
  • Licensed in Pennsylvania

A: I apologize — must have hit the “send” button before I had finished answering. So please ignore my prevIous partial response and read the following one:

It’s not possible to answer your question definitively without knowing what the pet provisions in your lease say - and also whether it appears you violated any of the pet provisions, when and what type of formal notice of the violation must be delivered to you, whether you are provided with a grace period in which to cure the violation, and what the remedy is for a violation is which is not cured during the grace period, and whether the lease states that a violation of a pet provision is a condition of the lease (meaning that the breach is of such a serious nature that the landlord could bring an eviction action against you).

Without knowing what sort of community you live in, I don’t know whether the pet provisions were attached to the lease and final or whether you agreed to any future “reasonable” changes to the pet rules adopted by the community in the future. I suppose it’s possible that there could be a rule stating that any dog bite which occurs while a tenant (not necessarily the dog’s owner) walks a dog will make the tenant automatically liable for any damages resulting from the bite, but such a provision would be unusual.

Even if the lease were to contain such provisions, it doesn’t sound as though you have received any formal notice from the property manager about the incident; the lady at the desk may not have accurate information; and you don’t say anything about receiving any feedback or demand from the person who was bitten or from the dog’s owner. In the future, however, you probably shouldn’t agree to walk anyone else’s pet (what if the dog doesn’t have an up-to-date rabies shot?) So, in the mean time, you should probably simply read your lease and wait to see what happens, if anything.

However, even if you end up with no problem under your lease, there is still the issue of potential liability under Pennsylvania’s dog laws, which are enforced by the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture. They are the ones who who investigate dog bites. Under the dog laws, dogs must be “under control” at all times, meaning they must be on a leash such that the dog may not hurt anyone. Dogs are personal property, and owners are responsible for damage, including physical injuries, caused by their dog. Were the owner found to be liable under the dog laws to the person bitten, the owner may turn around and seek reimbursement from you for damages and costs paid by the owner. In addition, the dog laws may require the owner to keep the dog under extremely restrictive restraint (and worse) if Animal Control were to rule the dog to be dangerous. There is the possibility that the owner may try to hold you responsible for this result as well.

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